Power Line Blog does a feature called, Sunday morning coming down | Power Line (powerlineblog.com) this week Tom Rush is featured. Tom Rush is a Harvard graduate who was part of the folk scene in the sixties and seventies. The first concert I ever attended was headlined by Tom Rush. I think he would fall in with John Prine, Bob Dylan and Joannie Mitchell. Unlike them, he stayed away from protest songs.
Here is a sample of his work.
One thing leads to another. I started thinking about songs, singers and groups that got passed by. Some were successful, Johnny Cash, Gordon Lightfoot, The Band, and Jerry Jeff Walker are all on my list. But, to my mind, their best work didn’t make the cut for commercial airplay.
I always felt like the refrain from the Townes Van Zandt song Pancho and Lefty could have been our motto at the AANTF. Crooks, and snitches, double dealing and what might have been. Yeah Willie and company got the most airplay, but I like this version.
Say Gordon Lightfoot and everybody immediately focuses on the song, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, yawn. I have always suspected that singer songwriters make a choice between commercial and creative success. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald rings the bell for rank commercialism.
The funny thing is that Gordon Lightfoot wrote and performed the Canadian Railroad Trilogy as a commission from the railroad. Can’t get more commercial than that. Don’t listen to it if you are convinced that the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is Lightfoot’s best work. It’s been over forty years but the song still gets me.
I can ignore a lot of Johnny Cash’s work without guilt. However, when his keepers weren’t watching he would sneak off. Then watch out. This video comes to mind. Wow.
Sandy Denny is another victim of rock and roll excess. At least she made it past 27 to 31. A lot of her songs have been covered by other musicians. But she is largely unknown, today. When Traffic and Led Zeppelin tried their hand at converting English folk songs to rock and roll they were following Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. What a voice!
Everybody knows Mr. Bojangles. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a hit with it. They did a great job. But it was written by Jerry Jeff Walker. Ask a fan to name a Jerry Jeff Walker song. It is likely they will come up with: Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother. The song was actually written by Ray Wylie Hubbard. Here is Jerry Jeff Walker performing Mr. Bojangles.
Legend has it that Duane Allman showed up at Muscle Shoals looking for session work. He ended up playing with Boz Scaggs and turned out, Loan Me a Dime. The Allman Brothers Band took off, followed by Duane getting killed in a motorcycle accident and Boz Scaggs got second billing.
I have a soft spot for The Band and especially Levon Helm. Their song, The Weight has been covered numerous times. I like the version recorded during The Last Waltz. The Staples Singers added depth to this version.
I haven’t listened to what passes for rock or variations on the theme for quite some time. Too boring. I guess that explains the current generation. Other than producing transvestites this generation has nothing to call their own. I don’t call achieving mediocrity something to brag about.
When I think of old folks music, I think of Big Band, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. I guess the artists I appreciate now fall into that category.